September 3, Seattle

Surprise, surprise, it Rains...

But not right away. Actually, it was a darned pretty morning. In fact, it didn't even look like it was definitely *going* to rain at all. I later found out that's my Southern California sense of rain; just because it doesn't smell like rain doesn't mean it isn't going to. If the weather's moving fast enough...

See, in L.A., the weather doesn't really move much at all! Except for the santa ana winds (sporadically through oct/nov/dec) , it's got a pretty darn slow pace. When the rain comes, it's there for..gosh, a good 2 or 3 days usually. heehee.

Dan had some work to do for his dad today, so I was going to get the morning to explore the city. However, we first walked over to campus, where I got to see Dan's office and several of the University of Washington buildings. I think my favorite was this sundial/modern art thing on the side of one of the buildings; totally incomprehensible to interpret and located in Seattle (where it must be useful a full 5% of the year!) *grin*. But it looked cool.

Dan then walked me over to the bus stop which I would take over to the Broadway district (I think that's on Capitol Hill), the Seattle analogy to the Castro in San Francisco. At this point I decided that the Seattle bus system is one of the best I've ever seen (this opinion did not change throughout the trip): they print bus route maps *and* schedules for every single stop which is more than the occasional yellow-band-on-streetlight marking. Talk about making exploring the city easy!

I got to Broadway, wandered into a newsstand/bookstore to get the morning paper and ask for a good coffee shop, as well as advice on what to see if a local was only going to be in town for a couple days. The guy running the store was really nice, actually, and gave me some good tips on which weekly paper to check out, which areas of the city were must-sees, etc. Then he told me to go next door to the coffee shop there, claiming it was the best coffee on the main street. I did buy a vancouver map, to prepare for what would be my first day out without a tour guide or other friends along, and he suggested that I walk along the Sea Wall in Stanley Park.

Caffeine called. I went next door to the coffee shop (it really was amazingly good coffee, and I must say here that I did manage to avoid Starbucks completely all the way until Chicago, and that was the only place I *did* go into one!), and spent the next hour or so going through the weekly papers and memorizing street names to look out for.

Of course, it started raining before I could get downtown. But I did find out that my Cal sweatshirt, the big thick blue one, takes quite a lot of rain to get soaked. The inside was still dry by the time I got onto the bus headed downtown (I didn't have a rain slicker at all, I suppose this could have been seen as being shortsighted, but it ended up working out just fine)! But I was just as happy to get on the bus.

Bus fares in Seattle are zoned, too...if you get on in downtown you don't pay at all until you get off, and then the fare depends on how many zones you've moved. Since I was already 1 zone out, I paid that amount when I boarded...I think if I'd continued past downtown I'd have paid again (so I suppose that means inbound, you pay first, outbound, you pay when you get off. If I'm wrong, someone tell me *grin*

I peer out the quickly-fogging bus windows (it must have been around 80 degrees F. inside that thing! happy happy) to find street names that might coincide with names I read on the maps while I was drinking my coffee, and realize that I should be getting pretty close to "that marketplace" I saw listed. Pike's Market, to be exact. I disembark, and wander down the hill towards the market.

I was not disappointed, this was actually a way-cool place. Yes, full of vendors, but the vendors had interesting stuff, and the food places were quite good too. No large chains, lots of mom-and-pop type places, really good Russian food, yummy homemade pie (I'd already realized my diet wasn't going to last while I was on vacation, so I wasn't feeling guilty at all about eating those piroshkis _and_ the pie!!). The market has at least 4 floors, stretches for several blocks, and definitely requires several hours to go through completely. Which was fortunate, because Dan's work ran a bit late, and by the time he was able to meet me in the city, I was pretty much done with the Market.

By this time it had started to clear, big poofy very-bright white clouds and some still-threatening dark clouds. We walked over to his dad's office and dropped off the stuff Dan had been working on, then went to the underground bus station, where the buses switch over to electric-only mode (the closer to downtown, the more they run on electricity; in the outlying areas they run on diesel when there are no power cables overhead). Which is good because otherwise that underground station would really be hard to breathe in. We took the bus over to the University district, then walked to one of Dan's friend's place, where he keeps his motorcycle. He had recently bought a Ducati Supersport 900, and sold his old bike which I'd once ridden while he was co-op-ing at JPL.

We then headed back to Dan's place and packed up for an overnight trip on one of the San Juan Islands (Orcas Island). We were going to be tent camping, but after realizing that his sleeping bag alone took up most of the room in my backpack, and the backpack being the only thing we could use to transport stuff, we changed our camping reservations at Doe Bay to use a "tent cabin", which was supposed to be futon/sheets/blankets/shelter.

We rode up Interstate 5 to the Mikilteo Ferry point, and took the ferry across to Whidbey Island, then rode up Rte 20 (about 55 mi) towards Anacortes. We stopped somewhere in the middle for a couple reasons; Dan wanted to show me the "Big Rock", which just so happened to be across from a great cafe, where we got hot coffee and I added a couple layers (it was about 64 degrees, but we were going around 40mph most of the time, and I was Darn Cold) of clothing.

This Big Rock was cool. Black and white sign next to it saying "Big Rock". It was the centerpiece for a set of about 8 or 10 apartments, named (surprisingly) Big Rock Apartments. I took pictures.

We stopped once more, at Deception Pass, so named by an explorer who thought that his guide had sold him out on directions through the islands for a while, until one of his followers (Whidbey) found the way through a channel. These islands are beautiful, the rock underneath the soil has a greenish hue unlike anything I'd seen before. More pictures were taken. And on we rode.

After arriving at Anacortes we took the ferry across to Orcas Island, and met a couple girls from New York, Sarah (brunette, braid) and Jolene (blond). We also started talking to a guy who lives on Orcas with his girlfriend, who told us that each island is has it's own distinct attitude and culture, and agreed with my impression that the entire pace of life was much slower on the islands; after all, you can't even rely on the ferry in bad weather. Everything happens whenever it happens. Also, you begin to know everyone else who lives on the islands; it's too small of an area and not that many people to not get to know who your neighbors are.

We docked, and rode around Orcas to Doe Bay, arriving just after sunset. We got our towels for the hot tub and ate dinner -- they were out of rice, though, so I got my food over bread instead, and they gave us a glass of Chardonnay on the house -- it was actually a very good Chardonnay, too! We find our tent keys! drats, we hadn't been given them from the desk, what with the various confusion over the towels, etc. We went back down the trail, got the keys, got into the cabin, dropped our stuff off, and headed over to the hot tubs. Boy, was I looking forward to those; it had been a rather brisk ride, even with the layers! And the night was certainly getting colder.

The hot tubs were cool, about 8 other people there, all visiting from various parts of the country, all very friendly. We stayed there talking until just before 10:30, when the tubs closed, and headed off to the cabin. *ZONK*